Legislative commission may be created to study IRV

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(Host) A legislative commission may be created to study whether instant run off voting should be used for statewide elections in 2008.

Chittenden County Senator Jim Condos says he’d support legislation for the study because there are still constitutional questions surrounding the use of IRV.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Two Legislative committees held a special joint hearing on IRV because of the interest generated in the recent mayor’s race in Burlington.

IRV is used only when no candidate receives at least 50 % of the vote. That happened in Burlington when Progressive Bob Kiss received 39% of the vote, Democrat Hinda Miller got 31% and Republican Kevin Curley got roughly 26 %.

After the second choices of the supporters of Curley and several minor party candidates were tabulated in the instant run off Kiss maintained his leas and was elected.

Jean O’Sullivan is an assistant ward official in Burlington. She told the committees that IRV is a good way to boost voter turnout.

(O’Sullivan) “We have pathetic turnout in this country. It is embarrassing that we have under 50%. If we’ve got something that interests people and they want to vote for it because they get to rank their candidates I think we’ll get more voters.”

(Kinzel) Former Burlington Democratic Rep. Sandy Baird opposes IRV. She says a real run off election would be better.

(Baird) “Given that you only had two candidates you had time for more information, more debate, more thought. And what may I ask you is wrong with more thought in a democracy? So to me there was absolutely nothing wrong with the old system. And this was a solution for a problem that never existed.”

(Kinzel) Democrat Hinda Miller urged the committees to move slowly on IRV. She says she was appalled to learn during the campaign that Republican Kevin Curley was urging his supporters not to back Miller under any circumstances.

(Miller) “He said I’m going to save you from a Hinda Miller administration now that candidate chose to act a certain way, which is his prerogative. But he influenced the people that supported him and that does not fly with the one vote one person aspect of what our constitution gives us the right for.”

(Kinzel) Senate Government Operations chairman Jim Condos is a strong supporter of IRV. He wants a commission to study the issue to see if a constitutional amendment would be needed to implement IRV at the state level.

That’s an issue because the Vermont Constitution calls on the Legislature to elect statewide officers, such as the governor, when no candidate receives 50 % of the vote:

(Condos) “And ask the Secretary of State to come back to us. We’ll give her a charge of perhaps – tell us what it would take to implement IRV voting by the 2008 elections.”

(Kinzel) Condos says it’s likely that his committee will draft the bill in the next few weeks.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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